We’re obsessed with hops and all the bitter, fruity, resinous, tropical flavors they can bring to beer. These little buds are amazing in and of themselves, but the work that goes into making those characteristics shine is just as impressive. From the kettle and far beyond, we’re breaking down the magic of getting the most out of our hops and pushing those IBUs ever higher.
When Stone co-founder and original brewmaster Steve Wagner crafted our initial batch of Stone IPA, little could he have known that that highly hopped first attempt at amplifying a British classic would become so popular and, for many beer drinkers, an India pale ale by which all future New World interpretations of the style would be judged. For many, Wagner’s bright, potent creation was their first IPA. (Was it yours? If so, let us know on social media using #StoneIPA)
Remember way back on April 1st when we announced our next collaboration beer, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner? Remember how clever you felt when you dismissed it as an obvious April Fools gag? Stone brewed a Pilsner? Yeah right. Then remember how foolish you felt when we confirmed that it was true—that it was in fact a real beer? Man (knee slap), good times.
Now that the confusion and hurt feelings have subsided, all that’s left is a very real—and very good—Black Pilsner (we know, there’s no such thing, but let’s put that aside for now…or forever). We brought you the play-by-play on brew day with James Watt from BrewDog, Will Meyers from Cambridge Brewing Co., and our Head Brewer Mitch Steele, but there’s more to the story.
First of all, let’s tackle this whole “lagers take longer to brew” myth. SOME do. There are major brand lagers that take less time to brew than craft brewed ales. Yes, a craft brewed lager may typically take longer than a craft brewed ale. Blah, blah blah. Congrats if you’ve stayed with me this long, hell I was starting to bore myself. The bottom line is the end result. Says me. Now let’s move on.
All I can say is that this beer better be better, because this lager took roughly four times longer to ferment and condition than a typical Stone beer (we also bottle-conditioned it for a few weeks, further prolonging its release). After looking back at the brew sheet, Mitch found that primary fermentation took 30 days, and aging (aka ‘lagering’) took 50 days. That’s a total of 80 days that the beer spent training to be the best damn Black Pilsner around.
The eclectic hop bill was also a bit of a challenge to balance. From the beginning, the plan was to use 100% Saphir hops in the dry-hop because it has the most “Pilsner-like” qualities, and the Brewmasters thought it would lend the beer a nice “elegance.” However, they also realized early on that Saphir hops are fairly subtle, and they might not give the beer enough of a hop kick.
Then, on June 12th, the beer gods smiled upon us. In a fortunate turn of events, James just happened to be in town from Scotland promoting his tasty beers, and he was able to stop by the brewery and corroborate with Mitch on what to do next. They tasted two versions of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, one dry-hopped with Saphir, and one double dry-hopped with Saphir and Sorachi Ace. Lo and behold, they came to a decision. “We agreed that the Sorachi Ace addition kicked the beer up a notch,” said Mitch, “right where we wanted it to be.” When Will was consulted about the extra dry-hopping, his response was: “The hoppier the better!” We knew we liked that guy for some reason.
Thanks to the unparalleled artistry of these three brewmasters, BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner is shaping up to be one amazing Black Pilsner…err…wait….what? You still have a problem with us calling it that? Fine. It’s probably a Black Double Pilsner anyway. Feel better?
Alright, let’s put this to rest. Just what the hell is a Black Pilsner, anyway? “It’s a Pilsner in the fact that we brewed it with Pilsner malt and fermented it with Pilsner yeast,” said Mitch, “but it’s bigger, darker and hoppier, and it’s unlike any beer I’ve ever had.” There you have it. Settled.
Now for the bad news—we didn’t make a ton of this beer. In fact, the yield was so low that it’s only going to be available in a few lucky locales (see below) in VERY limited quantities, and in 12oz. bottles only (sorry to crush your hopes and dreams). So when can you get your hands on it? BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner will start hitting store shelves this Monday, July 27th. Prepare yourself for the best damn Black Pilsner EVER.
The following places will be receiving small quantities of BrewDog/Cambridge/Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner in 12oz. bottles:
Check out information on our previous collaboration beers
- Matt Steele
With all the latest beer gossip just a click away, it’s near impossible to keep a secret these days. Many of you may have heard rumors about Stone 13th Anniversary Ale, but it’s time we set the record straight. Here’s the official word:
Take your idea of a hoppy Stone beer and throw it out the window, because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is the hoppiest beer we’ve ever brewed. Just how much hops is in this year’s batch? You may want to sit down for this…4.5 lbs. PER BARREL! To lend you a bit of perspective, Stone 10th Anniversary IPA, revered by many as the quintessential hopped-up Stone Anniversary Ale, had about 2.5 lbs. per barrel.
Stone 13th Anniversary Ale has officially trumped our collaboration brew, BrewDog / Cambridge / Stone Juxtaposition Black Pilsner, as our hoppiest beer. Of course, all those hops would be worthless if the beer wasn’t balanced. That’s where brewers Mitch Steele, Tom Garcia, and John Egan came in.
When Steve and Greg gave the green light, Mitch, Tom, and John took the reins of the recipe. The beer went through three iterations before they dialed it in, finally deciding on Chinook hops for bittering and a 50/50 blend of Centennial and Simcoe hops for dry hopping. The careful blend of hops, combined with pale malt, various crystal malts, amber malts, and just a touch of chocolate malt, resulted in a rather tasty 7% abv red ale—but it just wasn’t quite worthy of a Stone Anniversary Ale yet. “It had a nice hop character,” said Mitch, “but it didn’t have that extra something that I thought the beer needed.” After tasting it, Greg even asked Mitch “It’s going to be bigger, right?” To which Mitch replied “Yeah, it’s going to be bigger.” The solution was to bump up the hopping and alcohol a bit, and the result was a very big, very Stone 9.5% abv Ale. As if that wasn’t enough, the brew crew decided to dry-hop it again just prior to filtering and packaging.
When asked to describe Stone 13th Anniversary Ale in one word, guess which word Mitch chose? You guessed it–“Hoppy.” Sure, it’s a monstrously hopped, extremely bitter beer, but it also has a bold malty character that balances out the bitterness. “It’s really bitter, but it’s also malty,” said Mitch. “It’s pretty well balanced; not as dry as you’d think.” Dr. Bill agreed with Mitch when he tasted it. “It’s really well balanced for as hoppy as it is,” said Dr. Bill. “And it has a nice malt complexity with hops throughout.”
Mitch knows that hop-heads who missed hops in last year’s Stone Anniversary Ale will rejoice, not only because Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is a hop monster, but because it’s damn good. “I think it’s going to be right up there with some of the older Anniversary IPA’s,” he said, “and if all goes well, right up there with the Tenth.” We’ll let you decide when Stone 13th Anniversary Ale is released on June 29th.